Friday, August 23, 2013

Film on Friday #2 - La Sirga

The second installment in the Film on Friday feature is La Sirga, the feature directorial debut of William Vega. The film was an Official Selection at Cannes as well at Toronto's International Film Festival and more

La Sirga is set in Columbia. The time frame is not specified, but it could be anytime from the end of the last century to present day. Alicia has fled from her village - her parents have been killed and the village razed by the armed conflict. She has made her way on foot to the home of her paternal uncle Oscar, who lives alone in a run down hostel, named La Sirga.

The film was shot on the shores of La Cocha, a site considered sacred by the indigenous people of the area. The setting was absolutely stunning - haunting and harsh, yet beautiful in its bleakness and isolation. The setting itself becomes just as much a character in the film as the actors.

La Sirga is subtitled in Spanish, but there is very little dialogue. It is what is not said that speaks the loudest. What is at first interpreted as silence is not. Vega uses sounds such as rain, waves, the rustling of reeds, a flapping metal roof, the crackling of the fire and more to great affect. The loudest part of the movie is the impromptu musical gathering at the hostel. The music is toe tapping and joyful, in contrast to the hardscrabble life at the hostel.

I enjoyed the different camera angles employed by Vega - following Alicia on foot was extremely effective as was using the windows of the hostel to frame scenes.

Undercurrents of what might or could happen are just under the surface throughout the film. The threats are not overt but dangerous possibilities are there. Again, no dialogue is needed to transfer this feeling - it is there in the hanging scarecrow, the bullet hole in the window of the watchtower, the actions of the young boatman and the return of Oscar's son. Much of the film is not explained or voiced - it is up to the viewer to watch, catch and piece together what is and what does happen.

Much of the film is metaphorical, with the patching and painting of the hostel mirroring Alicia's rebuilding of herself. Alicia's sleepwalking and burying of candles speak of her losing the light in her life. The acting was brilliantly subtle, with glances and nuances again speaking volumes.

La Sirga was a powerful film that conveyed much by using little. Excellent.

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